We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about our pasts.
Yet sometimes records have anomalies.
Some are amusing or humorous.
Some are interesting or weird.
Some are peculiar or suspicious.
Some are infuriating, even downright laughable.
Yes, “Records Say the Darnedest Things.”
Records Say the Darnedest Things: Darned Non-Native Indexers
I’ve written before about Ancestry.com's use of Chinese indexers. In the early days of FamilySearch Indexing I commonly heard of FamilySearch volunteers “checking” their interpretation of indecipherable names against Ancestry.com’s Chinese produced indexes. Perhaps learning to read 20,000+ Chinese characters in several different calligraphy styles leaves the Chinese workforce well qualified in figuring out a couple dozen poorly written Latin characters.
Ultimately, the more context you have, the better your ability to interpret what you’re reading. (See “Indexing Errors: Test, Check the Boxes.”)
…which is exactly why native speakers do a better job indexing unstructured text. Consider this example from Ancestry.com. Somehow I don’t think that on 27 April 1871 Miss Sophenia Bowan married “Holy Matrimany.”
This is also why an index without images is never a good idea. If you consult the image, you will find:
Yes. Records indexed by non-native-speakers say the darnedest things.
“Missouri Marriage Records, 1805-2002,” database and images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 24 June 2009), entry for Holy Matrimany and Miss Sophenia Bowan; citing Missouri Marriage Records; Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City, Missouri.